Should you use a single or multi-page checkout?
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Should you use a single or multi-page checkout? This question has been a subject of debate among many online retailers. There are some who believe that a short and sweet checkout page delivers better conversion results. Others favour a lengthier checkout flow to maximise cross-selling and upselling opportunities.


The checkout page is one of the most crucial points of sale in any eCommerce business. This is the stage where a consumer, after placing items in the shopping cart, will decide whether or not to go through with their purchase.


That said, one of the biggest issues for South African online shopping sites is shopping cart abandonment. A lot of factors are in play here, but a common assumption is that customers get cold feet if a checkout page requires too much input from them. This, however, doesn't mean that a multi-page checkout won't convert potential buyers into cash. Consider the following quote by Christian Holst, who helped to compile the Baynard Institute's checkout usability report.


"There do exist some A/B cases where one page checkouts outperform multi-step checkouts significantly. These cases, however, often compare a non-optimized multi-step checkout with a new optimized one page checkout.


During the research for our checkout usability report we found that users in general had relatively few problems navigating between multiple steps (as long as a few simple guidelines were adhered to) – the usability issues were primarily caused by what the customer had to do at each step.


When A/B testing a non-optimized multi-step checkout (being A) against a one page checkout (B), I’d say if a C version were introduced that took precisely the same form fields as the one page, but split it across two pages (address on page one, credit card details on page two) – there wouldn’t be much, if any, difference in abandonment/completion rates between B and C."


What Holst highlights here is that it's not the number of pages your checkout consists of but asking the right information at the right time that can make or break a sale. In this article, we provide a comparison between single and multi-page checkout to help you make the choice of which optimisation will suit you.


What is a single page checkout?


On a single checkout, everything needed to complete the transaction is displayed on one web page. This includes personal details, credit card information, product selections, shipping details, and billing form. Customers can fill in the different fields in any order they wish. But, should they enter any incorrect details; the checkout page should pop out a message that indicates the error and how to fix it.


The pros


It's fast – While there are several fields to fill in, customers just have to scroll down to complete their details. Single checkout shows customers that the process won't take that long to complete.


Page performance – A single page means that the loading time is also much quicker. This could result in a more user-friendly experience, which can lead to better conversions.


Easy navigation – With all the navigational elements on one page, customers don't need to refresh their browser after each step. This will help them finish the process more smoothly.


Progress indicator - Customers are able to keep track of the progress of the checkout and how many fields there are left before the transaction is complete.


The cons


Cluttered content – With all the elements on one page, the layout can become confusing. The danger here is that the page stuffs three to four pages worth of form fields into one, which can be a turnoff to customers.


What is multi-page checkout?


Most online shoppers are familiar with this process. It requires a few steps to the completion of a transaction, usually across three pages. There's a page for personal details, a page for credit card information and a page for the shipping address.


The pros


Tidy layout – Since content is spread over multiple pages, the layout is better organised. The form fields on each page are shorter, which could encourage customers to complete the transaction.


Analytics – A multi-page checkout enables you to gather customer information at each step. For example, you will be able to see at which point customers abandon their cart or which part they dislike, and then optimise that section accordingly.


Third party payment gateway – With a multi-step payment process, you will be able to integrate a third-party payment gateway in South Africa.


Simplifies complicated orders – Customers who have complicated and expensive orders will be more tolerant toward a multi-checkout process, because they want to make sure everything is perfect before they sign off.


The cons


Page length - Customers often lose their patience if they have to go through several pages before they can pay for their order. This could cause them bounce away before they finish the sale.


The bottom line


As this comparison indicates, both single and multiple checkouts have their strengths and weaknesses. What you need to remember is that there is no one right solution for providing a checkout process all shoppers will love. In the end, it all depends on the mind frame of the particular customer checking out. Regardless of which checkout process you choose or already have, the key is simplicity; make sure that this important stage of the shopping journey is user-friendly and optimised.